Our judicial system has been the most leaned-on method of controlling the community’s behaviour for centuries.
That system isn’t perfect, and that’s why we need more than one tool for encouraging the right behaviours and curbing the troubling ones. For this reason, options like Restorative Justice have gained prominence in recent decades because of the potential for better outcomes and a fairer process for all.
Given our extensive history with a blame-based model, I can forgive any school or system leader who’d first seek to deploy a simple “crime and punishment” model to improve student conduct in their school.
We have come unstuck in that schools are learning systems and, as such, are completely misaligned with judicial systems.
Judicial systems eventually fail in schools because no learning happens. Well, that’s if you discount the learning to become a better liar that students are encouraged to engage with when the game is mitigating a negative outcome for themselves.
This is also partly why many schools have failed to fully embed a Restorative Justice approach. If it’s just something that’s done after wrongdoing, it’s still all about justice and not learning. A Restorative Practice model that invokes a more proactive and pre-emptive restorative path has proven far more effective.
Going restorative is a good idea. It’s why wise heads in WA and NSW have released policy and procedures mandating that government schools step toward restorative futures.
We just need to remember to support our staffs, students and parents to learn that learning system, lest they be caught in an implementation gap that threatens to kill a very worthy ambition.
There’s a lot at stake. And it starts with remembering that schools are houses of learning before we compel them to do anything.
Keep fighting that good fight,
PS. There are schools in all states and sectors that are matching approach to the system. Let me know if you’d like some insight for your school about how these schools are staying ahead of the system game.
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